The Van Wert County Courthouse

Monday, Jan. 24, 2022

Gary Russell Cooper

Gary Russell Cooper, 75, is now “absent from his body but present with his Lord.”

He was born on May 31, 1946, in Allegan, Michigan to Russell and Irene Cooper and big brother Bob.

Gary Russell Cooper

The family, being in the oil business, traveled around the Midwest as Russell was an oil well driller and they followed the activity. They lived for some time on Lake Manitou in Rochester, Indiana and enjoyed the lake life where Gary attended Woodrow Elementary School and Rochester Junior High where both Gary and Bob played basketball there. Gary left Indiana with many fond memories and special friends. Moving from there to Paw Paw, Michigan, Gary attended Paw Paw High School where he played basketball, tennis, and was class salutatorian graduating in 1964. Again, there were faithful friends and great memories. It was also while living in Paw Paw that he met his wife-to-be, Kathy Pea and even though his family moved right after his high school graduation to Wayne, Ohio, Gary and Kathy kept their relationship going through college and married in August, 1967.

Gary majored in business pre-law at Bowling Green State University and graduated in June 1968. He had a full scholarship to Notre Dame Law School, but could not attend Notre Dame as graduate deferments ended that year. As the Vietnam conflict had escalated he enlisted in the U.S. Army where he served 1968-1969.

The lure of the oil field was in his blood so when he returned from army service he and brother Bob started an oil exploration, drilling and producing company named Pioneer Drilling Company that humbly began in 1972. During this season of his life his three beloved children were born: Laura Kristine, Kara Dianne, and Clinton Christopher.

Also in this time period, through God’s grace he was “chosen” to be a believer and disciple of Jesus. He put much time into the study and memorization of scripture which was a great joy in his life.

Pioneer Drilling was a thriving company, but when the price of oil dropped significantly, and the stripper wells that Pioneer was re-producing in the Payne, Van Wert, and Fort Wayne areas were struggling, it was time to find another career. So Gary became sales manager for TV 44 in Lima in 1994. He also sold insurance for a while and then went back to TV 44 in 2006 and retired from there in 2011.

Gary and Kathy had the wonderful opportunity to travel to many, many places in the United States, Caribbean and Europe. After retirement they had a fun “hobby” that they called “Paris Flea Market” where they refurbished furniture and Gary built many lovely tables, islands, cabinets, benches and more.

Russell, Irene and half-brother Eugene Cooper preceded him in death.

Survivors include his wife, Kathryn Cooper; his brother, Robert (Marsha) Cooper; his children, Laura (Peter) Burger of Tampa, Florida, Kara Cooper of Van Wert, and Clinton (Caroline) Cooper of Doylestown and grandchildren Rayna, Maya, and Amelia Burger, James Cooper and Jackson, Norah and Ethan Cooper.

For Gary, ” To live is Christ and to die is gain”. Many times he would say that his loyalties were first to God, then his family, then the Buckeyes.

A memorial service will be conducted at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, November 24, at Calvary Evangelical Church in Van Wert, with visitation on Tuesday, November 23, from 6-8 p.m. at the church.

In lieu of flowers, preferred memorials: CHP Hospice of Van Wert.

Online condolences may be expressed at

POSTED: 10/23/21 at 4:29 pm. FILED UNDER: Obituaries